Thursday, July 26, 2007

Burgers by the Park

While I have not really gotten out as much as I would have liked to this summer, I still find time to get into Manhattan and enjoy New York's incredible variety. Last night was one of those nights ... I managed to get out of work around 615 pm, which has been a rare thing for me over the last few weeks, and head down to the city to hang out with my friend, GW Heathie. Now, it is hard for me to get into the city during the week, I have no idea how I did it 3 or 4 times a week when I first moved here. I guess the need for exploration weighed heavier than the need to rest ... no, it was the need to meet girls I think ...

I bolted out of work and hustled down to the 5 stop at Pelham parkway. Unlike many subway stops around here, the 5 stop is underground, which I like because I came to New York to ride a subway and not an elevated line. This evening the ride was not even bad, I had a bunch of articles and the hour ride went quickly on the way into the city ... I am getting used to things here.

We met up at the corner of 5th and 59th, near the latest bizarre modern art piece to adorn that corner (which I now know is called the Doris C. Freedman Plaza), a a 20 foot tall black marble obelisk on wheels, creatively named titled Obelisco Transportable. This piece of sculpture, brought to us by Damian Ortega courtesy of the Public Art Fund, encourages me in my belief that while modern art is cool it is also truly obscure, as the meaning of this sculpture, as described on the website, is not something I would ever get from looking at it. To be honest, I thought that it was just an obelisk being moved to another display location until I saw the title.

After staring for a minute, I found GW Heathie and we wandered through the park for a bit before finding a patch of dirt large enough to toss a disc around it. We threw for probably about 45 minutes, and I showed off my rusty ultimate skills and realized I am a lot older than I was when I played ultimate at UCSD, as I strained a hamstring slightly just bending down to catch the disc.

So as it was getting too dark to see, we wrapped it up and met some of GW Heathie's friends for burgers at the Burger Joint.

I had been to the burger joint once before with my friend Russell, and was eager to go back. The food is good, in fact the burgers are excellent, but what makes the burger joint so great is the ambiance. The restaurant, and that kind of feels like a misnomer, is inside the fancy, faux- french Le Parker Meridien hotel on 6th and 57th. The place itself is identified only by a small neon sign, tucked into a darkened corner of the ostentatious marble and glass hotel lobby, partially obscured by large, dark curtains. In fact, it is so hard to find that GW Heathie's friends were sure the place had closed, as they had already been to the lobby and didn't see it.

In stark contrast to the lobby you enter through, the Burger Joint looks like it belongs attached to a dive bar in a low rent flop house. The colorful, amateurish sign on the door immediately tells you that you are leaving the haute-couturish feeling of the hotel and entering the relaxed, scuzzy atmosphere of a true burger dive. , Dirty cafeteria type tables and boothes are packed into the room, no silverware or plates are in evidence and, red and yellow ketchup bottles dot most tables. A huge multi-colored cardboard sign points to the single garbage bin by the exit, and another sign says "We don't spit in your food so don't write on our walls". No surprisingly, the walls are writing free.

There is no where near enough space for large number of people packed in to the 30' x 30' space, which includes the kitchen. Staff has to plow through the line to order to resupply the kitchen. The menus, such as they are, are written in marker on cardboard nailed to the space above the counter. You can only get burgers or cheeseburgers, fries, Sam Adams and brownies. The orders are announced by yelling ... and everything is cheap and delicious. Burgers are wrapped in thick white paper and fries come in brown bags.

We get some beers, burgers and fries and though I only know GW Heathie, I have a marvelous time discussing sports and politics and where to live, a conversation that mostly involved Texas bashing in the face of a spirited defense by GW Heathie. I forget sometimes how much fun it is to jut hang out with a bunch of guys, as an unnecessarily large number of my friends (particularly now that I found the girl I want) are women. Suffice to say, the night was an invigoratingly masculine experience.

We all took off at 10, and it took me the required hour and fifteen minutes to get home, but I guess I am used to it, because I really didn't mind. I must be getting used to this place ...

Note: The Burger Joint is located inside Le Parker Meridien Hotel in Manhattan on 57th between 6th and 7th. Ask a concierge if you can't find it. It is a fantastic burger place (with a very limited menu) and is very reasonably priced for the area. Its open until 11 pm Sun - Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday.

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